MISSION IMPRESSIONS NOVEMBER 2017
Under the aircraft wing we could see the muddy diversions of a river, and a flooded plain. I was dazzled by the water everywhere! An immense lake at the centre of the country, which either emptied into the Mekong, or was filled during the monsoon by an inversion streaming in from a stretch flowing back from PHNOM PENH: an extraordinary phenomenon which in this case distributed Life. It was a festival of Water on the riverside that was teeming with people. The full slack waters of the “little sea”, that these fortunate Men would draw from for three days before the flow was reversed. A solstice that was not solar but liquid. A fleet of long, colourful dugout canoes, driven by so many arms pulling together, passed in front of us, parading in front of the crowd and the permanent noisy bustle of the town.
The next day, the journeys could begin: I say “journeys” because there were several that would gradually come to light. For several years I had wanted to leave, take on a mission, with just my hands, my heart and my rucksack; I was just waiting for the opportunity that makes a thief. DOCOSTEOCAM is a somewhat strange NGO that doesn’t do things like anybody else; and this is a marvellous quality. Dr Patrick JOUHAUD has, with his generous team, imagined a ballet, where all sorts of players enter the stage simultaneously;
- natural for the children of Cambodia,
- for the development of this magnificent country,
- for these rural homes, dispensaries, hosting facilities for care, education and treatment,
- shared between the members of this nomadic team,
- for each person’s benefit,
- and ultimately for osteopathy, its development and its transmission.
SHADE FOR CHILDREN : in the south, a happy group of children were walking in single file towards the rural home, through the rich green rice-paddies. “The kids are here! Later I noticed a little Cassius Clay, muscles bursting through his sleeves, who, early in the morning, was punching a sandbag hanging from a tree in the courtyard. He chose to come with me, walked up silently, greeted me, and then lay down on a school table. From the shade of the courtyard roof, I can see fields that are so calm, a flag fluttering in the breeze, and a nicely wooded hill, but I then return to his breathing. The aspiring boxer has now fallen asleep, open to the world with no hatred, no arms and no violence “the Easy Way”. When I started, after “work”, I would note down in each of the children’s health journals “osteopathic treatment” And watching this wonderful child sleep I finally wrote down: “osteopathic care”.
On the bus, our travelling refuge, along the bumpy road, everything scrolls past with my wandering gaze which takes in these streaming sights: the plain flooded with light, the little sea with floating villages, the pagoda roofs at the top of the hills, this immense youth so carefree on their two-wheelers, children’s smiling faces everywhere, hammocks with dangling arms under the houses, the great noise as we enter villages, the colour of the unforgettable Earth, and the deaf absence of older men …
GOLDEN SILK, A red earth courtyard between the workshops, a few benches in the sun where the families of workers and peasants await. An elderly woman with shaved hair walks under the metal roof. Her name written on a piece of paper, an uncertain date of birth, silence written all over this coppery face with a body as taut as teak. I’d been feverish for a few days, with no strength left, motionless in this close humidity. The sun pushed the shade out of the shelter and approached the table. Acceptance of being touched, listened to, giving, receiving. Waiting patiently under the healing hands, without a word, finally her wooden fibres hydrate under her quiet gaze. And when she finally rises, we greet each other in Khmer fashion, each slightly bowing to the other with our hands placed together over our hearts: “The Being who is in me greets the Being who is in you”. Then she slowly slipped towards the buildings with the eternal grace of women who are constantly protecting Life, in order to go back to weaving her silken masterpiece. This noble charm in old clothes, and “whom…I have already seen – and whom I remember.” wrote Gérard de NERVAL.
KEP, the market at the edge of the Gulf of Thailand; between the passages of the many delicious pepper stalls, workers in the shadows along the blackened walls were busy in the smoke, near the ovens with shrimps and crabs. Finally an exit towards the blue light; once again women, this time with hats on, water right up to the waist, gathered the floating wooden crates, pushing them towards the quayside. I swam in these warm currents above such an empty seabed offshore from a beach where families had come together on this Sunday, lying in their hammocks, lifting straws and skewers to their relaxed mouths.
PICNIC RESORT: Strange Day, bizarre atmosphere. Children shrieking like clouds of swallows, ducking and weaving in front of the entrance to the treatment room. Siblings protect each other as they watch over their prostate brother or sister during the treatment. There are geese honking noisily in the gardens. We mustn’t move too much, but wait, without frightening anyone, under the ventilators. Behind, in the alleyway, the truck trailers filled with treated children take the seeds of tomorrow back home. Later, in BATTABANG, 4X4 pick-ups will no longer be transporting machine guns, as has so often been the case alas, but relaxed human beings, waving their arms in hope.
Strange osteopathy without any words, where vital touch becomes self-evident at all ages of life. This communication via the skin sometimes carries me into the horror of our turmoil, and sometimes settles like a bird with a song of hope. “But if the bird sings, it’s a good sign,” the French poet Jacques Prévert tells us. So each time, every day, wherever we are, once again, with our companions by our side, we begin our fine, close contemplations of these birds that are fragile and mute, but so precious and magnificent. In this former Indochina, so troubled, this East, so dynamic, the essence of our Art reappears: this slow, majestic balance of reciprocal tensions which gives healthy inspiration to Mankind, and which I have discovered here in another expression, simply, everywhere, in the irrigation systems, the intense human effort, and in these smiling children.
This epic journey along the roads, and the journey of solidarity in the classrooms, enabled me to rediscover community life in a touring company, with my partner, and friends: some very long-standing, some long-standing and others new. “Our Friends are those who know us well, and who love us all the same.” – so goes a malicious saying, and it is reciprocal.
The true magnitude of this adventure of personal commitment also revealed itself, just as we left it, in the plane above the nurturing greenery of the paddy fields surrounding this immense lake with its inflowing and outflowing waters. Since our return to this Europe, so cold and overabundant, an Asian fruit has ripened: peace and calm. Before there was terror, just like that of the mother and her inseparable child whom I had treated together; the terror of my childhood spent in another country at war, in another period had undoubtedly spread to this land, to these waters, to the winding delta of the Mekong.